Friday, November 21, 2014

Progress report: good, with a twist.

Progress report: good, with a twist.  With the able assistance of Tim D., my friend and neighbor, we made lots of trenching progress yesterday.  We were going so fast that we thought we'd actually finish yesterday.  Right about the time we had that thought, the twist: we struck a water pipe, about 2' in front of Tim in the photo at right, and quite close to our house.

Now the weird thing about this is that we were, at that point, being extremely careful about where we were digging.  The main water line into the house is directly behind Tim, about 4' below ground level.  The obvious course for it to take is straight out from the house, then left toward our pump house.  Just to the right of that, on the house wall, you can see where our electrical service enters the house.  For it, too, the logical route for it to take would be straight out from the house, then left toward the pump house, where our meter is.  Furthermore, when Trent J. hand dug here, he found that the power kept on going down after 4'.

So we dug with the backhoe to the right of all that, right next to the concrete wall for the entrance to our basement, just to the right (in the photo) of Tim's left foot.  In the area where we were most concerned, this all worked very well.

Then, most unexpectedly, as I started to lift out a chunk of dirt low in the trench, water started bubbling out.  Fast.  Very fast.  I got the backhoe's bucket out, gently, then ran to the pump house (about 200') and shut off our pump.  When I got back, Tim was out of the trench.  Fortunately, he was wearing overshoes, so his feet didn't get wet.  The trench had a couple feet of water in it.  And the house had no water.  It was 2 pm.

I already had a sump pump, purchased a few weeks ago for my last adventure in repairing our home's water supply.  We rigged that, and a few minutes later we had just a puddle left.  Tim insisted on jumping back into the trench and digging with a shovel in the muck (and I couldn't help feeling very guilty about that) while I operated the backhoe to remove what he'd dug out.  We soon discovered that at the bottom of the trench was a capped end of a galvanized steel pipe, and the water was coming in from the side of the trench.  Evidently the backhoe had moved that pipe, and broken it somewhere further into the dirt.  We had no idea how far into the dirt the break was.  I was dismayed to find the pipe was steel, as nothing is harder to repair. 

So the two of us, shovel and backhoe, dug out a big hole to the side of our actual trench.  That went surprisingly quickly, though if I had been working on this alone it certainly wouldn't have.  The combination of Tim on the shovel and me on the backhoe worked well for this work, just as it does on the usual trenching. 

Just a few inches from where we first spotted the leak was a valve – and it was turned off.  The valve, in turn, was broken off from the pipe beyond it.  We'd found the leak.  Tim dug a bit around it, removed the broken off valve and capped pipe, and we soon discovered the remaining pipe end was a 1" copper pipe.  Celebrate!  Celebrate!  Dance to the broken pipe!  Why?  Because copper pipe is a breeze to fix – all I'd need to do is to solder on a cap.  Woo hoo!

Tim, knowing I'd object, ordered me (I'm still laughing about this!) to run down to Ridley's (our local sort of large general store, four miles away in Hyrum) to buy the parts I'd need to fix it.  I also had to buy a propane torch, as mine is down in Jamul at the moment.  Ridley's had everything I needed, and just before 4 pm I had it fixed.  I cut a clean end (with a tubing cutter), cleaned it (wire brush and emery cloth), slathered it with flux paste, put the cap on, heated it up nicely, then soldered it.  The repair held without a drip on the first try.  It had been less than two hours from first break to repaired pipe.

It would have taken much longer without Tim's help, and almost certainly I'd have spent a night without water.  I'm beginning to wonder whether he's quite alright in the head, though – because even after today's experience, he's planning to come back and help me again today...

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